Even while India was being dumped from the T20 World Cup in the West Indies, Viswanathan Anand was making all the right moves on a chess board in Sofia to retain the world championship title for an unprecedented fourth time.
Even while cricket experts were comparing unfavourably the Indian players’ fitness levels with the opposition, the TV channels made much of the fact that Anand had won the world title after an exhausting 40-hour drive from Frankfurt to Sofia in the wake of Iceland’s volcanic eruption disrupting flights. The truth, however, is not that simple!
With almost all Team India’s players coming to the West Indies straight from the 45-day Indian Premier League (IPL), the question was repeatedly asked whether the Indian cricketers were exhausted.
Dhoni stated that he had no setbacks from the IPL but that the combination of late-night games, partying (where spectators paid extra to interact with players) and getting up early to travel could be draining for those who did not know how to respect their body and give it time to recover.
However, it is not as if Anand is physically fitter than his opponents. Former world chess championship challenger Nigel Short describes Anand as “an overweight middle-aged man”. The DNA quotes Short as saying that “Chess is not a 100-metre race and fitness is a minor issue.”
However, in a match of high intensity between players with equal talent, Short thought the eighth-game loss for Anand was because of fatigue. Short also noted that the 40-hour drive from Frankfurt to Sofia had taken its toll on Anand in the first game.
However, the 40-year-old Indian Grand Master was able to draw on his experience and composure to clinch the title in the last game against the 35-year-old Vaselin Topalov. Preparation is not just physical but mental, something which the Indian cricket team did not appear to have factored in while making the almost overnight transition from IPL to the World T20 tournament.
Two of Team India’s three games at the Super Eight stage were played on the fast and bouncy wicket at Barbados; made things more difficult. As Dhoni admitted, “Most of us have a problem because we (in India) don’t have bowlers bowling 140-145 kph-plus on wickets that bounce a lot in a format where you have 20 overs and have to play your shots.”
That fatigue can be not just physical but mental – was indicated by some baffling decisions. Team India played just three specialist bowlers at Barbados, two of them medium-pacers. Again in the crucial match against Sri Lanka, the hard-hitting Yusuf Pathan (who had scored the fastest century in the IPL) came in to bat when there were less than two overs left.
Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly opined that Yusuf should have opened and capitalised on the fielding restrictions in the first six overs.
The bowling changes were also baffling with medium-pacer Vinay Kumar being replaced by Harbhajan after bowling the second over of the game and taking one wicket for one run, with the Lankan score reading 6 for 2. Dilshan hammered Harbhajan and changed the tempo of the game. Hopefully, India will put its best foot forward next February when the original World Cup of 50 overs is played in the Subcontinent!
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz pursuing Economics (1st Yr.) from Ramjas College, University of Delhi. Football is his religion. Â Writing has always been one of his areas of interest.